1 Nephi 5:1-8 — LeGrand Baker — Sariah’s Comfort

1 Nephi 5:1-8  

1 And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto our father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad, for she truly had mourned because of us.
2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
3 And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.

The account of the conversation between Sariah and Lehi was written by Nephi, who was not there when it occurred. So, either he is describing what he remembers being told, or else he is copying from his father’s record. The latter is the more likely. If so, we are reading a segment of Lehi’s personal history.

Sariah’s concerns were those a mother would be expected to have. She cared about her home, her children, and the security of her family. Her words, as they are reported to us, seem to be a downward spiral of fretfulness. “Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”

Lehi’s response was to acknowledge the truthfulness of her first accusation, then to assure her that everything would be all right. When the boys came home safely, all her concerns went away. That, at least, is the way the story appears to be told. However, Nephi’s choice of words may have intended to tell us a great deal more than that about his mother.

In our common language, Nephi’s statement that his mother was “comforted” is read to mean that she began to feel better. However, in the Old Testament the word means to bring about the cessation of mourning, the implication is not to end the cause of mourning but to transcend the sorrow—to empower.{1} In some scriptures “comfort” connotes an empowerment that overcomes the sorrow—suggesting the priesthood power of sacral kingship.{2}

For Sariah, to be comforted by her husband’s words and by her sons’ return was not simply a resignation that things would be all right and that her husband had been right all along, Rather, it was a spiritual empowerment, and h er words are a masterful testimony that she really knew (1 Nephi 5:7-8).

{1} Gary A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion (University Park, Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 84-85, footnotes 74, 78.

{2} Examples are 2 Nephi 8:1-3; Isaiah 40:1-2, 51:1-3, 61:1-3; and Psalms 23:4-5. For a discussion of comfort see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 467-71; Second edition, p. 340-42.


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